A TV ad for William Hill, seen on 15 September 2017, featured a voice-over that stated, “Get a 15% free bet bonus on your winnings with ‘2 Clear’ from William Hill, 30% of flat races last season were won by two lengths or more. Bet on any live ITV flat race and if your horse wins by 2 lengths or more you’ll get a 15% free bet bonus on your winnings. Introducing ‘2 Clear’ from William Hill. Available on all live ITV flat races. Online, on mobile and in our shops.” During the ad, the words “free bet bonus” and “Live ITV Flat Races” flashed on screen when referenced in the voice-over. At the bottom of the screen, small text stated “Selected UK flat races. 6+ runners ….”
The complainant challenged whether the condition that the promotion applied to horse races which had at least six runners was made sufficiently clear in the ad.
William Hill Organization Ltd t/a William Hill said they had reviewed the promotion and considered consumers would have been well informed of the requirements and the key terms of the promotion which were clearly highlighted in the ad. They said they understood the concern of the complainant. However, they considered the information that the promotion only applied to races with at least six runners was readily available for consumers to make an informed choice about whether to participate in the offer.
William Hill also considered the on-screen text complied with the BCAP Code as it had been used to expand on and clarify the offer whilst highlighting a minor qualification. They considered the qualification provided consumers with the relevant information to make an informed decision on their participation in the offer, namely that it applied to selected UK flat races which had six or more runners. They further explained horses could be withdrawn at any stage up until the start of the race and considered the restriction made it fair for both parties in the case of a mass withdrawal from a race. They stated of the races in question, 97% were scheduled to have six or more runners, but after non-runners and withdrawals, 95% of races would have been eligible for the offer.
Clearcast said William Hill frequently ran enhanced offers in racing, and for each offer they provided full and substantive details, including full terms and conditions. They confirmed the promotion featured in this ad was for live flat races, which was communicated in the voice-over. The text at the bottom of the screen included the condition “Selected UK flat races. 6+ runners…” was there to clarify the conditions attached to the enhanced offer, and to underline that it covered live races only, not all races. There were some UK flat races which did not have six or more runners, but these were not shown live. They said they considered the potential withdrawal of multiple horses (runners) in a race to be a rare occurrence and were happy for the advertiser to clarify this condition in the on-screen text and did not feel it contradicted the main message. They considered this was not misleading as it was included to ensure there was no ambiguity about what William Hill were offering.
The ASA considered that consumers would likely interpret the voice over claims “Bet on any live ITV flat race” and “Introducing ‘2 Clear’ from William Hill available on all live ITV flat races” to mean they could get the free bet bonus when they bet on any televised flat race. We noted the on-screen text included the qualification that the bonus was only available for races which had six or more runners. However, we considered that was contradictory to the claims that the bonus was available on “all” or “any” race.
Furthermore, we noted it was common in flat horse races for runners to drop out right up until the beginning of the race. We understood there would be instances where a consumer might decide to place a bet on a race and not know until the start of the race that their bet would no longer be eligible for the bonus as the race no longer had the requisite amount of runners. We considered that this was a significant qualification that should have been prominently included in the main body of the ad and that it was not sufficiently clear for it to be presented in the small text at the bottom of the screen.
Because the qualification in the small print of the ad contradicted the impression created by the voice-over, we concluded the ad was misleading.
The ad breached BCAP Code rule
The standards objectives, insofar as they relate to advertising, include:
a) that persons under the age of 18 are protected;
b) that material likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or lead to disorder is not included in television and radio services;
c) that the proper degree of responsibility is exercised with respect to the content of programmes which are religious programmes;
d) that generally accepted standards are applied to the contents of television and radio services so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from inclusion in such services of offensive and harmful material;
e) that the inclusion of advertising which may be misleading, harmful or offensive in television and radio services is prevented;
f) that the international obligations of the United Kingdom with respect to advertising included in television and radio services are complied with [in particular in respect of television those obligations set out in Articles 3b, 3e,10, 14, 15, 19, 20 and 22 of Directive 89/552/EEC (the Audi Visual Media Services Directive)];
g) that there is no use of techniques which exploit the possibility of conveying a message to viewers or listeners, or of otherwise influencing their minds, without their being aware, or fully aware, of what has occurred"
Section 319(2). (Misleading advertising) and 3.10 3.10 Advertisements must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told William Hill to make significant conditions to offers in their ads clear and to ensure that they do not contradict the claims they qualified.